The School of Jesus Crucified
Jesus Christ Shown by Pilate to the People
Pilate, on beholding the Redeemer of the world in the lamentable condition to which His executioners have reduced Him, imagines that His appearance alone must move the people to compassion, and therefore takes Him to the balcony in front of his palace, from whence He may be seen by the assembled multitude, saying "Ecce Homo." - "Behold the Man!" Consider:
1. The state in which Jesus is shown to the people.
He is so deformed and disfigured as scarcely to preserve the semblance of a man. His face is pale and bruised with the blows He has received, and defiled with the spittle - His adorable head is bending beneath the painful weight of the sharp thorns, which pierce His brow and form a crown of sorrow and ignominy - His torn, mangled, and bleeding frame is clothed with a garment of scorn and derision. He suffers in every part of His sacred Body, and His position is one of the deepest degradation. In this state of indescribable shame and confusion, the adorable Son of God is presented by Pilate to the people with these few words: "Behold the Man!" As though he had said: "Behold to what a condition the Man whom you accuse of aspiring to royalty is reduced! See whether He is not rather worthy of tears and compassion than of hatred!" And thou, my soul, attentively contemplate this Man-God, the King of Glory, overwhelmed with ignominy, in the presence of so great a multitude, His adorable Body streaming with blood and loaded with shame. He who was the most beautiful of the sons of men, is now the abomination of His people. He has assumed so painful and humiliating an appearance to induce His Father to take pity upon us, and deliver us from the eternal punishments which we have deserved. Love for our souls, and desire for their salvation, have reduced Him to so pitiable a condition. But, on your part, what efforts do you make for the salvation of your soul which has been purchased by Jesus at so dear a rate? Are you anxious to guard its purity and save it from eternal misery? Or are you, on the contrary, willing for a mere trifle to sacrifice your right to that Paradise which Jesus has purchased for you at the price of so many humiliations and sufferings?
2. The feelings aroused in the hearts of the people by the appearance of
The sight of the lamentable condition to which the most innocent Redeemer of the world is reduced, would have touched hearts of stone, and ought to inspire the Jews with feelings of compassion and mercy toward our suffering Jesus. But no sooner do they behold Him than they seem to lose every feeling of humanity, and, with the fury of wild beasts, clamorously demand His death, and seek with unexampled fury to deprive Him of that life which is all but extinct in His martyred Body. The diabolical hatred and implacable rage animating them against our blessed Lord urge them on to demand with loud cries that he should be crucified! Behold the consequences of allowing a passion once to take possession of the heart! There is no excess into which a man blinded by any one passion may not fall. All passions delight but ruin the soul, and must therefore be combated with untiring energy. Pilate is well aware of the innocence of Jesus, and is by no means willing to yield to the iniquitous wishes of the Jews, but they fiercely and clamorously reply that according to their law He ought to die, because He has made Himself the Son of God. The laws of the world condemn Jesus to die. All worldlings who seek solely to gratify their passions exclaim by the voice of the Jews that Jesus must be put to death, that Jesus must be crucified! And do you regulate your conduct by such laws as these? Do you follow the maxims of worldlings? If such is the case, you will very speedily desert Jesus, and seek to crucify Him anew. Jesus beholds the rage of His enemies, He hears their furious outcries, and bitterly deplores their insensibility to His sufferings, but rejoices at the prospect of that Cross on which He is to die for love of me, while I tremble at the very name of crosses and sufferings. Why are my sentiments so contrary to those of Jesus?
3. The feelings which the sight of Jesus Christ should awaken in our hearts.
While the people display no compassion whatever on beholding Jesus, let us imagine that the Eternal Father shows Him to us to excite at least in our hearts feelings of love, veneration, and of desire to imitate Him. Let us imagine that we hear the Eternal Father addressing us in the words of Pilate to the Jews, "Ecce Homo" - "Behold the Man!" He is your King, the King of wisdom, of love, and of holiness, but also the King of sorrow and ignominy. He has acquired possession of His kingdom by humiliation and suffering; He has purchased it for you at the price of His blood and of His wounds: for your sake He has sacrificed His dignity, and permitted Himself to be thus outraged and tormented. Adore this King, be subject to Him, and if you wish to enter His blessed Kingdom, follow Him in the way of the Cross and of suffering. He is desirous of reigning in your hearts, and He has purchased possession of them at the price of a most painful death. Consecrate then to Him all your thoughts and all your affections. Behold the Man! He is your Father; the most sweet, tender and loving of fathers - a Father who, for the love of His children, and in order to restore them to the life of grace which they had lost by sin, has sacrificed His own most precious life on the Cross, and is yet the most despised and abhorred of fathers. Love so good a Father, obey His commands, and never grieve His tender Heart. Behold the Man! He is your Master and your Model. Observe the virtues which He practices on this occasion. Extreme mildness amid so many provocations, perfect silence under so many outrages, great humility amid so many insults, and wonderful patience under so many sufferings. Contemplate, and endeavor to imitate Him. Never will you resemble Him in the honors of Paradise, never will you be His companions in glory, if you resemble Him not in His virtues. Resolve to do so by the help of His grace.
Remain for some time with your eyes fixed on a Crucifix, and say to yourself, "Behold the condition to which a God has been reduced for love of me, and to satisfy for my sins." Offer Him all the powers of your soul, and all the senses of your body, in testimony of your love, and determine to use them solely for His glory. Ask Him, through the merits of His humiliations, to bestow upon you the spirit of humility and penance.
The venerable servant of God, Ursula Benincasa, took such great delight in having constantly before her eyes a picture representing Jesus crowned with thorns, and in the state in which He was shown by Pilate to the people, that she had it fastened on her working frame. When working she would frequently breathe forth fervent sighs of love to her suffering Lord, and beseech Him to allow her to partake in His sorrows, and to share His crown of thorns. She caused Crucifixes to be placed in every part of her house, and kept many in her room, so that, whichever way she turned, she might always behold her suffering Redeemer. Having become a Religious, and Superior of a Convent, she ordered each of her nuns to keep in her cell an image of Christ Crucified, and to say at least thirty-three times every day, "My Crucified Jesus! I repent of all my sins. Have mercy on me, and help me at the hour of my death." (See her Life).
Jesus Condemned to the Death of the Cross
Pilate, seing that he gains nothing by all his attempts to liberate Jesus, but that, on the contrary, the people are being excited by the high priests to demand that He should be crucified, at last makes up his mind to pronounce sentence, and condemn Our Saviour to the death of the Cross. Consider:
1. The people desire the death of Jesus
The Jews are not satisfied with the scourging of Jesus, nor yet with His crowning with thorns, nor with His having been overwhelmed with disgrace and ignominy; they require nothing less than his death, and urge Pilate to have Him crucified. You also have desired His death as often as you have sinned, and the voice of your perfidious, malicious will has uttered the cry, Crucifige, against your tender Father, Saviour and God, as loudly as ever the Jews did! Oh, what ingratitude and cruelty!
The Jews had sought for Jesus to make Him king; they had experienced the effects of His beneficence; they had received the most signal favors from His hand, both for soul and body; and now with unexampled ingratitude they demand that He should be put to death on the Cross like a malefactor, and cannot even endure the sight of His adorable Person. Hence they desire Pilate to take Him away; as though they had said, "We cannot longer endure to behold Him, so hateful and disagreeable is His presence to us!" This is always the aim of the wicked. They have no wish to know God, or to contemplate His infinite perfections, and they will not reflect upon His benefits, goodness and love for us. If they once did so, they would have no difficulty in abstaining from sin. The sight of Jesus reminded the Jews of His miracles and beneficence, and was a reproach to them for their atrocious injustice and fearful ingratitude in desiring His death. On this account they would not look at Him whose appearance aroused remorse in their hearts. You commit sin, offend God, and persecute Jesus even unto death, because you never will pause and consider how much Jesus has loved you, nor how much He has suffered for your sake. You live in forgetfulness of God, with scarcely any knowledge of Him, immersed in vanity and idle curiosity, and absolutely unmindful of your loving Benefactor and Sovereign Good; hence it follows that you feel no horror of crying out, by your hateful sins, that He must be crucified, that He must die. And what has Jesus done to deserve such treatment at your hands?
2. Pilate condemns Jesus.
Pilate would willingly liberate Jesus, but his courage fails him. He fears to condemn Him because the thought of His evident innocence causes him to tremble. And yet when he hears the people threaten him with the anger of Caesar, Pilate betrays his conscience, and condemns the Just Man, the Holy of Holies, to death, delivering Him up into the hands of His most furious enemies! O accursed human respect! How many times have you, O Christian, put the Son of God to death in your heart by committing sin through human respect? Not to displease a friend, not to lose the favor of a person who is agreeable to you, not to be deprived of some vain transitory honor, not to lose some wretched pleasure, you have committed the monstrous evil of offending God! And yet you knew that He was your Lord, that He had a right to be obeyed and preferred by you to all things else. You knew that He commanded you to sacrifice friends and inclinations alike to His Will and law. How is it possible that you have made more account of a creature than of God, and that, through human respect and fear of men, you have renounced the friendship of God your Father? How is it possible that you can have been more afraid of displeasing men than of outraging the infinite Majesty of God by sin? Bewail your error, and hold human respect in detestation. Pilate trembles and is filled with horror when pronouncing sentence of death against the God of life; yet all his knowledge, remorse of conscience, and the evident proofs he has of the innocence of Jesus, are not sufficient to restrain him from committing so awful a crime, and he consents to the deicide. Indulge in no feelings of anger against Pilate, but rather turn them against yourself, who, in despite of the light of faith, the assistance of grace, and remorse of conscience, have sentenced Jesus Christ to death each time that you have committed mortal sin. And ought not the mere remembrance of this to cause you to die of grief?
3. Jesus Christ accepts death.
Human Respect, and your own passions, have caused you to become so often, like the Jews, a rebel to your God. Resolve, then, to be vigilant in mortifying your passions, and in despising all human respect, when the good pleasure of God is in question. Never forget your God, the benefits you have received from His hand, His love and His sufferings. Pious thoughts such as these will prevent you from committing sin. Pay great attention to Divine inspirations, and to remorse of conscience, for they are graces by which God proposes either to save you from consenting to sin, or to raise you up if you have fallen.
Tears shed over the Passion of Our Lord are very pleasing to Him. Blessed Johanna of the Cross, who was filled with devotion to the sufferings of Jesus, even from her mother's womb, (as was evident from that fact that, while yet a babe, she refused the breast on Fridays), was one day contemplating in spirit the streams of Blood which flowed down the sacred Body of her Crucified Redeemer. She was lamenting that it was not granted to her to shed at least a portion of her blood for love of Him who, for her sake, had shed every drop of His, when an Angel appeared. He bade her be comforted, for that Our Lord regarded all the tears shed over His Passion in the light of so many drops of blood. (See her Life).
Taken from The School of Jesus Crucified by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
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